Provisions under Indian Penal Code for Environmental Protection
The Environmental Protection Act, 1986 describes that “environment” includes water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property ; and “environmental pollution” means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant.
After the Stockholm Conference, the Declaration on the Human Environment was adopted. It was the first step towards conservation and protection of the environment at an international level. As per the declaration, states were required to make legislations and take legislative measures to protect and improve the environment. After the Declaration, Article 48A was added as the Directive Principle of State Policy along with Article 51A through the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 making the duty of government and the citizens to protect the environment.
Article 48A of the Indian Constitution laid down that “the state must try to protect and preserve the environment but also safeguard the wildlife and forests of the country.”
Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution laid down that “the citizens of India must protect and improve the natural environment, including forest, wildlife, lakes, and rivers, and also to have compassion for the living creatures.”
In MC Mehta vs. Union of India, the Court held that under Article 21 of Indian Constitution, it is a fundamental right to live in a pollution-free environment and if there isn’t any healthy environment for the citizens to live in then this right would not mean anything.
In India, there are many legal provisions to protect the environment. Various enactments and provisions for protection of environment and prevention of environmental pollution have been passed by the Indian Parliament. Some of them are National Green Tribunal, 2010; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Environmental Protection Act, 1986; Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Environmental Protection
Various sections in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes environmental pollution punishable. Chapter XIV – OF OFFENCES AFFECTING THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, CONVENIENCE, DECENCY AND MORALS (Section 268-294-A) of the Penal Code deals with the offences related to safety, public health, etc. These sections make public health a priority and any act which pollutes environment and make the life of an individual dangerous is punishable under the Code.
Section 268 and Section 290
The term Public Nuisance is defined under Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 268 says that any act or omission which causes injury to any person by polluting the environment can be prosecuted. Section 268 of IPC makes noise pollution punishable.
Section 290 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes the offence of Public Nuisance punishable along with a fine up to Rs. 200. Any act or omission of polluting the environment harming any citizen is punishable under Section 290.
In K Ramkrishnan v. State of Kerala, the court held that smoking in public place comes under the category of public nuisance and is punishable under section 290 of Indian Penal Code. And, in Murli S. Deora v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that under Article 21, smoking in public place is a violation of fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21, of those who don’t smoke.
Section 277 – Fouling water of public spring or reservoir
Section 277 of the IPC states that anyone corrupting or polluting the water of public spring or reservoir, in order to make it unfit for regular and ordinary public use should be punished with an imprisonment to 3 months or with fine up to Rs. 500 or with both.
The term “public spring or reservoir” means a pool, lake, pond, tank etc and does not include flowing water of rivers, streams, and canals. Though fouling of running river water in a continuous stream is not an offence under this provision, but if any evidence is there that shows that the act has caused common injury or was dangerous to the public then it is punishable under section 290.
In Emperor vs. Nama Rama, the accused and nine others fouled river water by steeping in aloe plants to extract fibre, making it unfit for drinking. The trial Court convicted them. The Bombay High Court held that a river is not a public spring and it is not an offence under Section 277 but it can be prosecuted under Section 290 as from the facts and description it might be a public nuisance.
Section 278 – Making atmosphere noxious to health
Section 278 of the IPC states that anyone who voluntarily vitiate or spoil the atmosphere of any place in order to make it noxious for the health of persons living or doing business or passing along a public way, should be punished with a fine up to Rs. 500.
Section 428 – Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees
Section 428 of the IPC states that anyone who mischievously killed, poisoned or maimed any animal of the value of Rs. 10 or above should be punished with imprisonment up to 2 years or with fine or with both.
Section 429 – Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees
Section 429 of the IPC states that anyone who mischievously killed, poisoned or maimed any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox irrespective of their value or any other animal of value of or more than value of Rs. 50 should be punished with an imprisonment up to 5 years or with fine or both.
Section 430 – Mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water
Section 430 of the IPC states that anyone who mischievously done any act which caused a diversion of the water used for agricultural purposes or for food or drinking by human beings or by animals or for manufacturing by industry should be punished with imprisonment up to 5 years or with fine or both.
There are more than enough provisions and legislations for protection of environment and degradation. But still the situation is getting worse day-by-day and in order to deal with this we need to have a strong and strict legislation that can provide us with a better approach towards the issue and it’s solution.
Author: Vikramjit Singh,
Panjab University SSG Regional Centre, Hoshiarpur